Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Scripture Soundings
First Reading: Sirach 15:15-20
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:6-10
Gospel: Matthew 5:17-37
In today's continuation of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addresses the relationship between the current interpretation of the law of Moses and his own. He insists that he has come to fulfill, not abolish the law. Jesus is explicit here. He repeats the phrase, "You have heard ..." with the counterpoint, "But I say ..." As with the Beatitudes, Jesus again aims for the heart, the spirit.
This time, he addresses the heart and spirit of the law. He will not settle for mere avoidance of outright murder or adultery or lying. He goes to the source of murder--hatred, resentment, spite. He insists on chaste living. He overrules the one-sided loopholes that allow men to divorce women, a law based on the view of women as property. He disallows all the means people employ to play fast and loose with marriage.
His words urge mutual fidelity. He has no truck, either, with sloppiness about telling the truth, swearing oaths, and confusing well-meaning people with a bright blur of words.
Jesus' condemnation of those who fail to fulfill the law is swift and harsh. He seems incensed. The syntax is spare and pointed. Clearly, Jesus cares a lot about the spirit and the letter of the law. His listeners and followers are to honor the law wholly and not minimally. His demands are uncompromising. The consequences of failure are clear and severe. The smallest are watching.
They are those rendered powerless by age or ignorance or circumstance. These little ones depend on the word and action of the mature and knowledgeable. To betray these little ones is to fail miserably.
Now, we keep in mind that Jesus speaks against a steady drumbeat of criticism and disdain from just those on whom the least depend. Those schooled in the subtleties of the law use their wisdom and knowledge to subvert the same law Jesus reverences.
Jesus realizes that the very persons who are trained in the law use their power to condemn people and to pile on rules that defeat rather than sustain one's life with God. Jesus' anger here is not toward the struggling little ones, but toward the crafty, condemning big ones--the scribes and Pharisees.
Paul also addresses the little ones. His little ones are the members of the church at Corinth, and they are a little shaken right now. Paul is aware of the self-proclaimed high and mighty and those who profess to practice religions that are inaccessible to common folk who possess little power. The powerful, or fake powerful, loom large on their horizon.
Paul dismisses the pretenders and exalts the wisdom of God revealed to the smallest. We recall from the second reading last Sunday that this wisdom is the wisdom of Christ crucified. For this Sunday, suffice it to say, the Christians at Corinth possess this wisdom revealed by God, and what God has planned for them is beyond their imagining. They are not to worry or be fearful, nor be dismayed.
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Updated: May 11, 2008